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Let Your Heart Melt As You Gaze Into The Face Of L.A.'s Newest Baby Mountain Lion

P-54. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)
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After a recent barrage of bad news for L.A.'s mountain lions (in January, P-52 was struck and killed by a vehicle on the 118 Freeway), we finally get an uplifting word for a change.

Above is a photo of L.A.'s newest mountain lion—a 4-week-old kitten who was given the cozy name of "P-54." Has your heart melted into a slurry yet? How can it not? What with the kitten's bright clear eyes, and her white ears? And yes, the kitten is a girl, as the L.A. Times has noted.

It's not all good news though. Researchers from the National Park Service believe that P-54, like many a British royal before her, is the product of inbreeding. Researchers had been tracking two mountain lions—P-23 and her half-sibling P-30—when they realized that the two were traveling together for three days. About 90 days later, it was determined (thanks to GPS data) that P-23 had just given birth, and researchers discovered P-54 soon after.

While genetic testing would be needed to conclude that P-23 and P-30 are the parents of the new kitten, researchers believe this case is likely. It's also believed that P-23 had given birth to more than one kitten.

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As we've reported in the past, inbreeding has been a recurring case among the Santa Monica mountain lions, as they exist in an environment that is trapped in by freeways and the ocean. Without the ability to venture out to other regions, they're unable to diversify their genetic makeup. The situation is certainly dire: experts believe that, without the ability to breed outside of their current territory, there's a 99.7% chance that Santa Monica's mountain lions will go extinct without intervention. So while the birth of P-54 is cause for celebration, it also notes the current plight that her kind is locked in.

“The good news is that local mountain lions continue to reproduce successfully,” Jeff Sikich, biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said in a release. "Unfortunately, these animals are stuck on an island of habitat, with very little movement in and out of the Santa Monica Mountains, which has led to multiple cases of inbreeding.”

The proposed solution—one that's been on the table for the past few years—is a wildlife overpass that would go over the 101 Freeway, giving mountain lions (and others) an outlet to roam beyond the Santa Monica mountains.

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